RIYADH, April 16 (AFP) - Authorities in the Muslim holy city of Mecca have shut down a women's Internet cafe for "moral reasons", a Saudi newspaper reported Sunday.

The cafe, near Mecca University, was closed last week after a report was filed in court alleging it served "immoral purposes," the English-language Arab News said.

"What was found was against both our religion and our traditions," said Brigadier Yussuf Matter of the civil rights department.

The brigadier who was told to shut down the cafe did not detail what the moral issues were.

But he added that the court had also granted permission to close other Internet meeting places, "especially those that are found to be badly used."

A regular customer, Fowzayah Maqbool, told Arab News the cafe was popular with postgraduates in the modern Aziziah district of Mecca.

She said it was a pity the facility had been misused, but did not elaborate.

"Now all of us have been barred from using the cafe," Fowzayah said.

But another student, Hayat Mohammad, who does not have her own Internet access, voiced anger and blamed staff at the cafe for failing to act earlier.

"They should have kicked out the people who were causing the problem," she said.

She used e-mail in the cafe to keep in touch with relatives in the United States and said she now faces a search for another women's only Internet establishment in the Islamic kingdom, where the sexes are segregated.

Internet cafes have mushroomed across Saudi Arabia, including in Mecca and Medina, home of Islam's holiest cities, giving teenagers a meeting point and a window on the world.

The kingdom has registered more than 100,000 Internet subscribers since opening services to the general public last year.

Access to many Web sites, and particularly pornography, are blocked in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Theatre, cinema, bars, nightclubs and other Western entertainment are banned in Saudi Arabia, which practices a strict form of Islam.

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